Philip­pine trains start is­su­ing de­lay cer­tifi­cates

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

The Philip­pine cap­i­tal’s de­crepit train net­work will start is­su­ing cer­tifi­cates of de­lay to tens of thou­sands who are late for work be­cause of daily break­downs, the gov­ern­ment said Tues­day.

With only seven trains for half a mil­lion pas­sen­gers, Manila’s Metro Rail Transit (MRT) is a com­muter’s night­mare, and creak­ing lo­co­mo­tives stop mid­track in­creas­ingly fre­quently.

“This is a trans­parency mea- sure. Peo­ple de­serve to know what prob­lems oc­curred, any­thing that could cause a stop­page from a bro­ken rail to air-con­di­tion­ing that stopped work­ing,” trans­porta­tion depart­ment spokesman Michael Arthur Sag­cal told AFP.

The “in­ci­dent re­port,” how­ever, will only cer­tify the cause of the de­lay and will not be worded as an ex­cuse let­ter for tar­di­ness, Sag­cal said.

“It’s up to the re­quest­ing

in- di­vid­ual how to use it,” he said, when asked if the doc­u­ment could be used as an ex­cuse let­ter.

Com­muters walk­ing on over­head rail tracks sev­eral sto­ries high be­side stalled trains have be­come a com­mon sight in the packed city of 12 mil­lion peo­ple.

The de­cay­ing MRT is also dan­ger­ous. In Au­gust last year, dozens were in­jured af­ter one train over­shot its track and rammed into a busy high­way.

A multi­bil­lion-dol­lar in­fras­truc- ture over­haul plan by Pres­i­dent Benigno Aquino has moved painfully slowly, and only one year re­mains be­fore he steps down next June.

When it opened in the late 1990s, the MRT had 20 run­ning trains, each with three cabs, but years of ne­glect, ag­gra­vated by wran­gling be­tween the gov­ern­ment and its pri­vate part­ner, have re­duced this num­ber to seven.

“We un­der­stand the frus­tra­tion of the public ... We are do­ing the best we can but so­lu­tions are not overnight,” Sag­cal said.

A pro­to­type of the 48 new trains that the gov­ern­ment plans to in­stall by next year will be tested in Novem­ber and rust-eaten rails will be re­placed within the year, he said.

But reg­u­lar MRT riders are not im­pressed with the new plans.

In­stead of is­su­ing late notes, the gov­ern­ment should just fo­cus on re­pair­ing the train line, said Francin Cruz, a 25-year-old ad- ver­tis­ing art di­rec­tor.

Cruz stands in line for up to three hours ev­ery night for a 25-minute train ride from work to her house. She has given up tak­ing the train dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour.

“I will not fall in line again with the same num­ber of peo­ple just to get an ex­cuse slip,” Cruz told AFP.

The left-wing op­po­si­tion group Bayan called the gov­ern­ment’s move “down­right in­sult­ing.”

“Com­muters do not need ex­cuse slips. They need im­proved ser­vices. They need the trains to stop break­ing down all the time,” Bayan Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Re­nato Reyes said.

And even the MRT’s gen­eral man­ager, Ro­man Bue­nafe, ad­mit­ted on tele­vi­sion that get­ting an “in­ci­dent re­port” could take a few days, as tech­ni­cal per­son­nel check the cause of de­lay.

“It’s not an over-the-counter thing,” Bue­nafe said.

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